December 4, 2023

The docudrama “Winterreise” about the fate of a Jew: Bruno Ganz in his final role

Remembering the happy times: Bruno Ganz in his final role in “Winterreise” Photo: NDR/Günter Goldsmith

A gem late in the first episode’s broadcast: “Winterreise” tells the tragic story of Jewish musician Gunther Goldschmidt.

A man talks to his father for about ninety minutes: “Winterreise” could have been a very tiring film, despite its fascinating subject matter. In fact, Americans Martin and George Goldsmith are having a conversation that probably doesn’t happen very often: because most parents never talked about their experiences during the Nazi era, regardless of whether they were perpetrators or victims.

Why was the father not happy in America?

George Goldsmith was called Gunther Goldschmidt. The former flutist was able to leave Germany with his wife in the summer of 1941 and emigrate to the United States of America. While searching for his roots, his son Martin learns why George, who was apparently unlucky in his misfortune, never played music again and was not happy in the United States.

The son asks the father

The film is based on Martin Goldsmith’s book The Indelible Symphony. “Music and Love Under the Third Reich – A German Jewish Story.” The American wrote the script with director Anders Østergaard and also participates as himself, but only vocally: he asks the questions that his father answers; However, he was never seen. Dane Østergaard, on the other hand, is an experienced documentary filmmaker. However, “Winterreise” is more than just a feature film, primarily because of Bruno Ganz. The Swiss man, who died in February 2019, took on the role of father in such a way that the conversation clips actually seem documentary; Anyone who doesn’t know him would really believe that this is a son talking to his real father. The actor’s face reflects memories and happiness with his wife Rosemary as well as the immeasurable suffering that followed: the National Socialists wiped out his entire family. Bruno Ganz answers Martin’s questions in American English, but occasionally resorts to German.

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Parental home in Oldenburg

Østergaard’s concept is every bit as fascinating as the lead actor, even if at first glance it relies on the usual docudrama format: the director illustrates the old man’s stories – the frame story is set in 1996 Arizona – with contemporary footage from the Third Reich period; But he does it in an incredibly artistic way. The first time traveling was in the 1960s, when Georg wanted to show his family his former childhood home in Oldenburg. This flashback is an impressive montage of real photos from those years with newly captured footage.

Østergaard takes a different approach to George’s stories from the 1930s: here he allows the narrator’s youthful ego, played by Leonard Checher, to wander through deceptively recreated photographs. The result is stunning, especially when the image of the orchestra outside the window suddenly catches fire: Nazis burning books outside.

Artful photo montage

Günther enrolled at the music college in Karlsruhe, but was forced to stop studying in 1935 when the National Socialists passed the so-called Nuremberg Racial Laws. His musical home is now the Jewish Cultural Society, where he also met Rosemary. The fascists tolerated the self-help organization: it was believed that they could control its members in this way; In addition, events to which only Jews were permitted abroad were seen as proof that Jewish artists were in no way persecuted. A few months after Günther and Rosemary left the country, the cultural association was dissolved and its members were deported to concentration camps.

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The film, co-produced by NDR, owes its title to Franz Schubert’s song cycle of the same name. In the beginning, Father sings two verses that perfectly describe his presence in America: “I move in as a stranger, and I move out again as a stranger.”

Winter trip: November 12, at 12:20 am, on ARD